Friday, December 28, 2012

Exhibitionist

Last night one of my friends commented that I was carrying a huge smile. I was. It was a night of realizing a goal I set for myself several years ago. OK, dear readers, if you think you are going to see pictures of me doing some kind of exotic dance, just click your clicker to the next blog.

Felix Berroa's "Manateal de Esperanza"
The event was the BarichArte 2012 Exposicion Nacional de Arts Plasticas running from December 27, 2012 to Enero 15, 2013 in the Aquileo Parra technical institute in Barichara, Santander, Colombia. And not only was I an 'invited artist' but my name was on the program as an exhibitor! To be sure I was not in the main salon with Felix Berroa from the Dominican Republic and Atlanta, USA or with Alfonso Andara from Ecuador, but I was in the same building.

Vincente's 'Angel'

There are 115 artists from all over Colombia, Ecuador, Spain, Dominican Republic and the U.S. on display so it is clearly an international exhibition. Plus there are 14 young boys and girls who are art students of Luis Mejía Bohórquez, whom we fondly call "Lucho." There are statuary, paintings in watercolor, acrylic and oil, metal arts, ceramics and an incredible work in wood by Vincente Cadena of Barichara.

It's a statue about four feet in height, with what appears to be a unique utilisation of the wood's properties allowing for a kind of 'hair' emanating from it. And I know about this wood, that it is among the toughest in the world, making each bit of carving very intense.


Jose Ropero's mixed media
One of the artists, Jose Ropero, and I helped to mount the exhibition for a couple of hours, hanging paintings and sticking up the data sheets. I saw his work and here it is. It is a representation of the world being eroded by machines for gems and rocks and it seems like the hand below is the message that it is up to us.

One of the people who occasionally joins our Saturday art class is Alejandro Quintero, who makes his living as a stonemason, but who is also exploring oil painting. He entered both his stone sculpture and an oil he recently finished. I see a similarity in both types of work; what do you think?


Alejandro Quitero, Santandereano.
In case you are wondering, my two entries were "Ventana" and "Barichara from LaLoma" and sadly the data cards were missing at the time of the opening, so people looking for my name did not find it. I heard that has since been corrected, and there were more than a few of us who suffered the fate of ignomy at the opening... if you look at Sr. Quintero's painting, he is missing a label as well.


Quintero's stone art
Since I have only been back in art production/creation for a couple of years, I feel excited to be around others who are demonstrating a lot more experience. 


Martha Herrera Angel with her watercolor.
The event was well-attended, and my hat is off to Lucho for pulling together a huge collection of artists and sponsors for an event that now spans a couple of weeks instead of only one weekend. I take a tiny bit of credit for one aspect of this - the creation of a name which can be the beginning of an annual event. When the subject came up, we brainstormed in the art class, and it was my idea that everyone decided was most likely to achieve that objective. I am grateful I could bring my public relations/marketing experience into the creation of something that will most likely become more and more international with time. And the children... WOW... look at this (below)!
Edgar Alonso Bautista, 8, stands in front of several of his artistic works.
He is pointing to his favorite, and was terrifically excited to have me take
his picture. Look for his name in the art world in the years to come as he
already shows great skills for his age. He is native to Barichara.
And I learned a whole lot about the exhibition process so if I want to do it again I will have a better idea of what to expect. 

BY REQUEST: Here are my two paintings that are in this exhibition... "Barichara in the Clouds," and "Ventana" (Window).
Barichara in the Clouds
"Ventana"

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Spirit of Christmas

A Christmas music box that I found for E, a reminder
of one I had when I was her age.
Each year as Christmas approaches, I think back on what it was like in the 1950's when I was young and anticipating the arrival of S. Claus. Sometimes it is a more pronounced time of pondering depending on what is going on in my life, and other years it is like a jet flying overhead - brief.

I remember only too well hearing from my older brother who was in a bitter state of mind that there is no such thing as Santa Claus. He was pretty proud that he had that information and could take away my joy. Only he never did. (and by the way I have forgiven him...) I still believe in S. Claus, in the possibilities that the Old Man can bring into reality, and for several years when I was living in Boise, Idaho, I absolutely knew Who He Was.

About 1974 or 1975 I was introduced to a really old man with a beard by Phyllis Atwater during one of our Psychic Fairs in Boise.  He went under the name of Arthur Yensen and he lived in Parma, about 30 minutes from Boise. (Art said when we went to visit him at his home in Parma that it was "the summer cottage for Santa.") He was the Karcher Mall Santa Claus for years and years and even wrote a small paperback book about being the 'real' Santa Claus. He refused to give out candy to the children, so the mall had to hire assistants to do it. He once told me, "Candy is not really good for them, and as the real Santa Claus, I cannot advocate it." Yensen was a high school biology teacher and started being a Santa Claus almost by accident. "But I realized," he said, "that the role of this individual in the lives of children cannot be minimized and decided after my first day on the job that I would do it for as long as I could." He took his position very seriously and commented that he never drank because "how would it look in the newspapers for my mall children to read that Santa had been arrested for being drunk and disorderly?"

From 1969, when he was in his early 70's, until 1990, he was on duty in his special red chair from Thanksgiving until the weekend before Christmas. Both my daughters sat on his knee and asked for their dreams to be fulfilled. Neither of them pulled on his real beard, but Art said plenty of other kids did, wondering if he was the 'real deal.' He was... in so many ways, the embodiment of the S. Claus I carry in my heart. If you read about his life on the link, you will see what I mean. To add in a little economic humor about Santa, read this as to the work and earnings of this North Pole entrepreneur.
Last year there was a Santa brave enough to ask the adults
to come and sit on (or at) his knee to share our dreams.
So for those of you who were given the 'truth' about Santa Claus someplace along the way, perhaps you want to revise your belief system and like Peter Pan's Tinkerbell be reminded to keep the dream alive. Yes, there is a Christmas and it is ostensibly about the birth of a baby in a manger, but it is also the time in the Northern Hemisphere when the axis of the earth brings certain astronomical events into focus and who is to say if it is science or history or myth or mystery? Care to share your special Christmas story here? Hope your Christmas is a merry one.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Emma Enduring

As the Christmas season really starts to get underway,  there are lots of causes that are seeking funding and pulling at our heartstrings. But there is one cause I wish I could put an end to and that's Multiple Myeloma. Not just for my personal connection to it, but because as time as gone by I've grown to know quite a few people who have become more than just a name.

Be careful walking in the woods these days... I was caught by surprise
when this giant snowman appeared, just about the time the snow did.
It was because of Lorna's blog that I was led to Emma, a lively and young woman in the U.K. who is enduring cycles of treatments because she wants nothing more than to be normal again. I don't have much in the way of resources to make a difference except I'd like to ask that if you feel so inclined, stop by and offer up some encouragement to this spunky gal.

And to remind my readers that even on your roughest days, if you don't have MM, please STOP complaining that you may have to wait in a line, or get stuck in traffic, or have weather interfere with your plans, because all of that is better than spending a full day with nurses bollocking up IV lines, or having someone grind out bone marrow from your hip with something that looks like a drill bit for oil researchers, or living with the anxiety that the next well-meaning person who sneezes in your direction could be putting your life at risk, for which a breezy "Sorry..." apology is hardly sufficient.

So this is also a reminder to everyone about the season for 'bugs,' that hand-washing is really important, staying home if you think you are coming down with something, sneeze into your elbow and not your hands, and for heaven's sake (because we are nearly full right now) if you know someone with a compromised immune system, don't go and visit them - call or send food instead.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Question is - are you eating well?

I am not a doctor and not a researcher, but I have been following the progress of a few Multiple Myeloma patients who have opted for Stem Cell Transplants (STC). Some have had success with an auto SCT (using their own cells) and some have had success with an allogenic (using cells from a close match) transplant.

Some months ago I was the cheer-up-leader for a photographer in the UK, Sean Tiernan, who was recovering from his allo STC - using his brother's cells - but he succumbed to pneumonia, something that is a horrible risk for those people with brand-new immune systems. (If you click the link you can read his blog.) This does not mean that I am a supporter one way or the other for STCs, only that going through that process is often a lonely one and I try to offer hope and encouragement in my postings.

Corn tortilla and sausage for the first course, with scrambled eggs and
perhaps hugo (juice) mora (blackberry) or naranja (orange) to follow.
One of my MM pals is a non-secretor, so he is not eligible for an STC and instead has been managing with a chemical combo that he acknowledges has sustained him beyond his 'shelf life' but has not really stopped the progression of the disease. He is also a writer who doesn't delude himself about the outcome, or about how the doctors sometimes make decisions for one patient based on the data for the disease either disregarding individual conditions or overlooking it to get to a quick result. For him, and you can read about it on Deludia, it was nearly an early end.

David Emerson had chemo and the STC and has undergone other therapies. (Click on the page called GALEN and read his history and the choices he made.) A recent article about alternative therapies said that conventional medicine gets recognition for cancer cures and the alternative field gets labeled as criminals when their patient(s) die and we never hear about those who are living many years after a cancer diagnosis. One blog I am following is written by a woman who is following the Gonzalez protocol based on nutrition and pancreatic enzymes. Here is her story.

Dr. James Berenson, a nationally recognized researcher of MM, has stated he does not encourage his patients to go the STC route. But the medical team led by Dr. BB at the University of Alabama takes the position that being aggressive with tandem STCs gives the greatest chance for a complete remission (CR) and there are more than a few MMer's who are in CR now from Dr. BB's regimen. You can read Nick Van Dyke's blog here.

It is too bad there is no comprehensive data on MM routes toward the cure... like there is for say, buying a car. You can find out which cars have a history of problems, which cars can go over 200,000 miles and not break the bank, and you can evaluate one car against another (or several others) to make your choice. I'd like to see something like this for the STC route, so patients have more information when making that choice. But for now, there is some collaboration going on in Boston, MA with Dana Farber Cancer Institute to develop a more personalized treatment plan - very interesting report here.
Chicken salad with celery bits and mayonnnaise on a bed of lettuce,
with toasted almonds and half a sliced apple covers all the bases.
Making homemade mayonnaise is really easy, by the way.

Another of the MM blogs I follow is that of 'Minnesota Don' who has incorporated nutrition changes into his lifestyle and who demonstrates with his national running campaign (Don is only a few states shy of having run a marathon in all 50!) how his food works for him.

Sadly, another well-informed MM blogger, Lonnie Nesseler,  http://nesseler-medical.blogspot.com/, recently died after 14 years with the disease, probably from the damages caused by his treatments. Lonnie posted in December of 2011 that after a second 'fill-up' of donor cells and going through another hellish hospital experience, he was in Complete Remission at long last. Awhile after that he posted on the MM FaceBook group a link to this report on the abuse of vitamin supplements.

Unlike other blood cancers that are more responsive to a 'standard of care' regimen, it seems to me, as a person/caregiver standing on the sidelines, that MM is more like an individualized disease and thus is harder to treat with the menu options of STCs, chemotherapy and other drugs. It's like going to a restaurant and asking the chef to please feed you, but in order for you to survive, he will have to make an educated guess as to what food combinations are best for you.

In that line of thinking, I have been listening to a book called "Healthy Eating, Healthy World," by J. Morris Hicks and J. Stanfield Hicks which discusses the interconnectivity of nature and mankind and how we are failing our own potential by how we eat. We are eating out of our natural range, causing serious health issues for the human population and damaging our environment because of the demand to provide more beef and dairy cows, chickens and the huge chemically-covered corn and wheat fields. Not to mention that the structure of wheat has changed over the past half century, so we aren't getting the nutrition from that grain that we used to. Read this about wheat and Dr. William Davis' book on it.

Bananas are still one of nature's most amazing fruits.
Sadly the chemicals used to preserve them for market
are affecting the workers who harvest them.
The Hicks' theory is the threat of becoming a 'vegetable' through a stroke is best overcome by eating raw vegetables. I am not sure I totally agree with that premise, but eating more healthy vegetables - and not those from GMO! -  certainly brings benefits.

Currently the bloggers Dom and Nan are doing quite a bit of research and reporting on the GMO issue and stem cell findings (especially as it relates to MM) and you can follow them here.

The peasants in South America (where I live for part of the year) can best afford the local fresh fruits and vegetables with a little chicken, goat and beef once in awhile. They walk a lot, work hard and live by the sun, starting their work when it comes up at 6 and stopping before it goes down at 6. Obesity never used to be a problem here, but as the camposinos strive to be 'richer,' they eat more sugar, consume more empty calorie foods with the result that both diabetes and heart disease are on the rise and if they acquire a motorcycle, they seldom walk when they can ride.

Getting exercise daily is also part of keeping the system operational. Even taking a short walk, if that's all you have energy for right now, is healthful.

The toxins in our systems caused by chemicals used in materials to build our cars, decorate our homes, provide aid when we hurt, and so on, are helping to make it possible for previously limited cancers to invade bodies of all ages. So I feel strongly there is some logic (and benefit) to having a hair sample test done to determine the status of the body along with the other testing that is done to determine the level of MM at diagnosis.

I am not blaming anyone for their diseases, but encouraging all those who are wanting better health to start looking at what you are eating. (You might find my postings about flouride and aspartame interesting.) Particularly look at how many hidden sugars are in the things you buy to prepare quickly. The best thing I have done for my own health has been to live in a third-world country where I am almost 'forced' to eat fresher everything. And so far, South America has one of the the lowest incidence of MM, but as South Americans start eating like North Americans, this may change. Now that I'm living in the NW, I am focusing on eating foods as fresh and healthy as I can find them. TIP: When in the bigger supermarkets, shop the outside lanes and avoid the middle ones where all the preserved foods are.

How can I have good strong cells if I don't give them the nutrition they need? Most of the time when I return to the U.S. I have gained weight and I know it's because I have access to the very tasty, not-necessarily-good-for-me, treats that are so readily available there. I offer up these links to help you make better choices for better health and hope they are helpful.

Hippocrates knew that food was the key: "Your food will be your medicine and your medicine will be your food."

Monday, December 10, 2012

300th Posting, but who is counting?

Periodically I check the stats on my blog and recently I noticed that I had inched up the posting meter and was about to run the odometer over to 300. Are you one of those people who inadvertently looks at the odometer on your car and are surprised to see it rolling over a bunch of zeroes? Do we have some kind of internal counter keeping track and causing us to look up at just the right moment?

Round clock with numbers showing time 11:11What is it in my internal clock that has me waking up at 3:33 a.m. so regularly? Or noticing when the clock on my wall or computer is suddenly at 11:11 night or day? I cannot recall the number of airline miles I have with any of the carriers I fly and would be astonished if my internal counter is keeping charge of that, but there are plenty of other numerical events that seem to be worth noticing, from my body/brain's point of view. And this must be the case for some other folks as well.

We are about to come to 12/12/2012 and that day will likely have folks keeping a watch out for 12:12 a.m. as well... if you go to the link, there is lots of information to entertain you and they are promising to keep it updated as the day progresses. For instance, did you know that the number 12 can be divided into halves, thirds, fourths, sixths and twelfths? Apparently people like to get married on days like this (9/9/09. 10/10/10. 11/11/11, etc.) but as we all know the number 12 limits the months in a calendar year in every language, so this will be the last year, last time to have a 12/12/12 date for a wedding. And from what I've been reading, there are couples that planned (1,446 percent increase over last year!!this wedding date years ago!!

So, that begs the question, if the world is going to come to an end on 12/21/12 - nine days later - that should make the honeymoon segue into a very short marriage, probably shorter than Kim Kardashian's. What do you think about these number-focused events? Are you living like there is no tomorrow or waiting for 1/1/13?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Wintery scenes of the Olympic Peninsula

It is more than chilly in the NW... it is COLD! I am missing Colombia in a lot of ways, but having to double-wrap myself before going out is only one of the reasons I yearn to be further south!

Here are some views of the Olympic Peninsula taken recently when I felt brave enough to venture out.
John Wayne Marina, part of the Port of Port Angeles, WA under a
wintery sky. I love the faint reflection of the fading sun on the pavement.
These are from Port Townsend, WA... the first shot was taken through a rain-spattered car window. The next two were with the window down and the deer was completely unfazed by our presence.


A local told me that the deer in Port Townsend are starting
to be a serious problem. Gangs of young males are
congregating under trees in the city and becoming
threatening... not unlike teenagers, it seems.


This last 'deer' shot is from an SUV parked in Sequim outside a rock shop. I love the sense of humor of the local population here! Someone put a Santa hat and colored things on the Elk that welcomes everyone to Sequim, too. Hilarious!

And finally, the heavy clouds of this season over Discovery Bay as we headed back home from the trip to the craft fair which was huge and impressive and I forgot to take my camera inside with me... too wet and too far to walk back to the car to get it. Sigh.
Winter's brief light over Discovery Bay, WA.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

My Virtual Life

I have a life. I actually have two of them... there is my 'real' life and there is my 'virtual' life. In one I get up, make breakfast, go for a walk and - depending on what country I am in - speak in either English or Spanish to those I meet along the way.

In my virtual life I am on a 60-ft. sailboat in the Vendee Globe solo race passing the Cape of Good Hope, sailing under a spinnaker today and preparing for a heavy wind and seas as I approach the Indian Ocean. But, I am only one of over 392,792 virtual sailors doing this and have barely inched forward in the fleet.Virtual Regatta

For some folks I guess their two lives get blurred and they lose track of where they are. I hear about people who get too involved in a game and take it too seriously. My problem has probably been more the reverse; I used to get too involved in my real life and take it too seriously.

Life is a serious business, though. If you don't stay current with paying bills, the consequences are unpleasant. And if you don't have a way to bring in income to pay those bills, then it is no laughing matter and not a game of any kind. Some time ago I joined up with a virtual company and have acquired several thousands of virtual dollars which were supposed to somehow get used to buy things...  I am still not sure what 'things' these might be, but so far this virtual resource hasn't served any real purpose.
A real life view of Discovery Bay (WA) after some intense weather this week.
I am thinking this blending of virtual and real lives could be beneficial to people who are struggling. Why couldn't I make donations from my virtual account to some service or cause to be used for someone's else's electric bill? Is that any different from passing the hat in real life and not knowing where those funds end up? Isn't that what bankers are doing all the time? Moving funds around in virtual accounts? Just thinking out loud... wondering whether there will come a time when virtual and real lines become so blurred we may wake up and find water splashing over the gunwales and getting our beds wet.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Settling in in Sequim

A rainbow, the harbinger of 'riches' to come... over Discovery Bay.
By the way, Sequim is pronounced "Sqwim" and those of you who have been reading the blog for awhile will recall my visit here this last summer. For a lot of reasons, I made a decision to find a place to begin settling in for my 'elder years'. It needed to be a place with minimal snow and minimal humidity. I wanted to have access to an artistic colony of folks and older people, like me, who were still interested in traveling, being active, but not all in one place like these 'active communities' which have become so popular throughout the U.S.

Sequim Community Chorus in the first of three nights of
performances at Trinity United Methodist Church.
This is meant to be my U.S. retreat, like my Colombian one, but after living in Colombia for several years it is clear to me that my language skills are not improving well enough for me to think about getting really old there. As long as I can still make the trip there, I will be there for awhile. And I still have a lot of South America to see. But the idea of being old, ill and unable to communicate well is a combination that doesn't appeal to me.

I was lucky to find a woman who wanted a roommate and since we will both be traveling in different directions and at different times, we are more roommates in terminology than actual fact. I have a nice clean room with a view of the tall evergreens and am about a mile from the water. The house is in a quiet neighborhood with watchful neighbors about 10 miles from Sequim center. It turned out that "K" is singing in the Community Chorus so I went last night to their first performance and was delighted at the music and had happy reminders of my days singing in Lake City with our dear director, Alphonso Levy. When the group did the Hallelujah Chorus, my tears of joy and sadness mixed in with a prayer for him as I sang along with everyone else.

As I explore my new surroundings, I am sleeping on a new bed as well. It is supposed to be comfortable, but the 'cells' warm up from body temperature and when I get into bed, my own cells are already cold from the chilly nights we are having here... perhaps it will be some kind of new weight loss process because I will be expending calories warming up the bed so I can go to sleep... LOL!
Mt. Rainier as seen from the ferry on the morning I caught it for Sequim.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

49 Years Ago Today...

(I started this with the headline "50 years ago... but was reminded it was in 1963, not 1962... however, I was still in Paris.) I was in Paris, France and there was a postal strike, so I couldn't get funds for a French Thanksgiving dinner with my American pals (funds my father would send me came through American Express to the French postal office). I would somehow manage to come up with enough francs for a chicken soup, some bread and a hot chocolate. But that would be the least of my concerns as everyone around the world was mourning the late President, John F. Kennedy, who was killed in Dallas, Texas in a surprise assassination when he was in a motorcade there.

It was 49 years ago today that he was shot, but it was not on Thanksgiving Day. It was a Friday, the week before the national day of feasting. In France, where Jacqueline Kennedy had won the hearts of that nation, grieving continued as well and where ever we went, strangers would come up to us and tell us they were sorry. The black and white TVs were showing American news most of the time and it wasn't enjoyable to watch. He was buried on Monday, November 25, in a state funeral that overshadowed the following Thursday's Thanksgiving Day.

While it was 12:30 p.m. in Dallas, it was 6:30 p.m. in Paris when we first heard the news. Like others globally, we were stunned. My two American friends, Penny and Ginger, and I decided to head for the American Embassy. We were assured by the staff that we could return if we had any problems, but that there was no need to return to the U.S. I suggested we go to the New York Times Paris office and see what more we could find out. We were able to walk right in and go up to the second floor where the teletypes (this was before color TV, before wireless cell phones) were clack-clacking away with the reports on events as they were unfolding in Dallas. By the time we arrived, the news from the hospital was being delivered... Kennedy was dead. As I stood reading the teletype, someone came and ripped it off the machine and as I looked up I realized it was Pierre Salinger.

No one paid much attention to us, so we moved to another machine which was announcing that Walter Cronkite would give the official announcement in a few moments. Someone was rushing to get the TV channel tuned in and we stood with a large group of staffers and listened in shocked silence to his grim news report.

Years later I would have the chance to meet Walter Cronkite in Scituate, Massachusetts, while he was on his sailboat with his wife and we talked of that particular day. He said it was life-changing for him as he had never before had to report on the assassination of an American President and it signaled the emergence of a world he realized he did not know.

Jack Ruby prepares to shoot and kill Oswald, who is being escorted by police to be sent to Dallas County jail
So for us, Americans in Paris, it was already a world in which we felt like strangers. It was like having your father shot and as young women in grief, we were in tears for most of the rest of the night. The next day we were all able to call home and speak to our fathers and reassured we would go on with our year abroad, but it would forever be marked by this singular event.

The photo to the right is a horrible reminder of the aftermath as we sat and watched TV in a French cafe near our pension and saw Jack Ruby rush up and kill Lee Harvey Oswald. I had nightmares for weeks afterward because I think this was the first time a killing was broadcast on national (and international) TV.

And today I am wondering, where are my friends? If anyone reading this knows of the whereabouts of Penny from Pennsylvania or Ginger from Georgia, maybe they will check in and let me know how their last 49 years have gone because I lost track of them once we returned to the U.S.

Finally, on this Thanksgiving Day, I am thankful for so much... family, friends far and near (including those I have made through MM) and for health. Intending this is a better year ahead for all of us in all ways, for the highest and best good of all concerned, so be it and so it is! Whooooooo!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Five of 20 boats have retired...

The Vendée Globe solo around-the-world race began on November 10 with 20 boats and skippers. Sadly in the last nine days, five of those boats have had to retire before ever reaching the "zone of convergence" (doldrums) where the winds are practically non-existent before they reach the Southern oceans. Click here to see the rankings of those still racing.

Safran was the first boat to go home after the keel apparently fell off. Followed by Group Bel which suffered a critical impact near the bow after hitting a trawler, then Bureau Vallée had a glancing blow off a fishing boat damaging a forward stay too seriously to continue, and Savéol, skippered by the only woman on the race, was dismasted last week ending her bid. The most recent, Maitre CoQ, also had a break in the keel which was not repairable, so the skipper has turned on the engine to get the boat back to France.

With another approximately 70 days of racing, at this rate of attrition there won't be any boats in the race after 40 days. I feel very sad for all the skippers who have had to retire (sailing language for withdrawing) as each one went into the race with the highest of hopes. It cannot be easy to face the hard fact that your boat will not be seaworthy enough to continue competing.

Meanwhile, the Virtual Regatta has gained another 120,000 or so racers, bringing the total to 327,403 folks guiding boats in the game. My official place today in that race is 150,386 after starting about 103,000 something. Positions change frequently with the winds (or lack of them) so it may turn out to be a more interesting race than the real one.

NOV 25 -- Another two boats from the real race have had to retire. ENERGA skippered by Zbigniew Gubkowski was having serious problems with the autopilot, making for impossible-to-solve sailing situations for the solo sailor. Today PRB with skipper Vincent Riou was faced with a heart-wrenching decision. He was the winner of the last Vendee Globe and had a very good chance at repeating that success, but he hit a metal bouy in the middle of the ocean which damaged both his hull and the stanchion/cable for his mast. The carbon-fibre cable could not be repaired so he is heading to Brasil now.  The ocean may be big, but it is not big enough for all the crap that is allowed to be dumped or somehow floats out there and eventually it will cause a problem like this one.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The New El Dorado Airport in Bogotá


The new addition is on the left; the old 1950's tower is on the right.
Arrivals and departures out of Bogotá will be both easier and more enjoyable now that the all-new El Dorado airport has opened. There was not a hint of this wonderful outcome when I returned in September, although I have known there was work going on on this project since my first arrival several years ago at the outdated 1950's terminal. It is now managed by Operadora Aeroportuaria Internacional (OPAIN), a consortium composed of Colombian construction and engineering firms and the Swiss Flughafen Zürich AG, and the light and airy design is a winner in my book.

 Imagine my surprise and delight when the taxi from the bus terminal pulled up the ramp to the totally modern glass and steel structure to let me out. (By the way, the Wikipedia information is no longer totally correct as they have no new photos of the new facilities.)
The all modern, 'green' banjos will
try to minimize usage of paper.

Moving walkways are a great addition!
And there has been barely a hesitation as the staff adjusts to their new surroundings and bags are quickly processed while people are hustling off to their new gates to await boarding. The high ceilings and glass windows make it seem like each gate is really an open invitation to the mountains beyond, making it even harder to leave this wonderful and interesting country.

My trip from Barichara to Bogotá was smooth (as the busses go) and I even slept a little this time. We arrived at the bus terminal in record time and because there was no festival ending or starting, the crowds were light, so I was able to get a taxi right away. As I was leaving my art class earlier the day before, my teacher just had to tell me a sad story of a woman he knew having a travel problem, but I put that out of my head and continued to intend my story was going to be different - and it was.
The shift in size is as big as the new facility; I'd be guessing, but it feels as
if the airport has quadrupled in size overall. Much needed, and as a traveler,
much appreciated! This is in one of the gate areas.
But one aspect of the airport will not get my praise. The restaurant Crepes and Waffles, usually offering great service and quality food, really disappointed me. At 5:30 a.m. there were not a lot of customers, but I still had to wait 20 minutes to even get my order placed. Then my fresh juice arrived, but nothing else... not hot tea, not sugar, place settings only. The men and couples around me who had arrived after me were served first as I waited and waited. Finally I called the manager over and explained what was NOT happening and immediately it was corrected. But the egg, while hot, was not cooked as I requested, and the croissant was not made that day. The wait staff did not come over to see if I wanted anything during my meal, and in fact only showed up to clear the table and then after 25 minutes of waiting for her to return with my check, I finally got annoyed and tried to find the manager again. No luck, but seeing me get up caused a reaction and the check was delivered. I have concerns about the ability of this restaurant to meet the needs of an international traveling public wanting to make their flights on time, not to mention keeping up their former reputation of being a great place to eat.
The full view of El Dorado Nueva from the runway.

JetBlue, American, Delta all have service counters here (as well as Avianca, Copa, LAN and Spirit airlines to name a few), but JetBlue still gets the nod from me for being the best airline to travel back and forth on. They have streamlined the ticketing and baggage handling process so that I didn't have to wait long in line, and their bi-lingual staff make any travel problems easily solved. They continue to provide affordable daily service to and from Orlando, not to mention LEGROOM on their aircraft!

Travelers waiting for their flights will appreciate the free and fast WiFi services, the many highly visible modern arrival and departure information kiosks, and soon (I hope!) more trash receptacles.
Preparing to take off from the runway at El Dorado.

It was clear that there is still a lot of work to be done in these early days of the new airport, and some glitches (I wonder what word is equivalent to that in Spanish...?) still have to be worked out - like having signs after clearing Customs that direct you to the gates - but the moving walkways, the new shops, and the duty-free options for buying, were all very operational. I think if you are just arriving in Bogotá, this new airport is going to give you a great first impression of the country and its people.

UPDATE: Read about the cease-fire between FARC and the Colombian government which will benefit everyone, but particularly it will be good for tourism because visitors will want to come and see this remarkable country if they can be assured of their safety.
Much of Colombia was under heavy clouds as we took off for the U.S.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A message from Me to E

My readers should know that E is a very special person to me. I don't get to visit her as often as I would like, but that's because E has a very busy schedule with school and pool plus friends and I am living about 4,000 miles away in another country.

Most of the houses in this village are between 250-300 years old. So if
someone ever says "You're as old as dirt," this may be what they are telling
you. Daytime temperatures range between 78-85 degrees when sunny.
But E is in my thoughts often. And so this blog today is dedicated to E - something to be shared with others as if Granny was doing a Show-and-Tell at school.

The 'new' place where I will store my
furnishings is here on the top floor.
I do not live in a grass hut in the jungle. But I do live in a house made of earth, called tierra in Spanish. The people here make a wooden form and then push the earth inside that form to make the walls which are about 21 inches thick. This is called "rammed earth" construction and is perfect for this climate because the walls keep the inside of the house, called a casa, at an even 70-72 degrees temperature day and night. No air-conditioning required, even though we live about 400 miles north of the Equator and the sun can get quite hot during the mid-day.

Even though the sun gets hot, I don't ever get sunburned here, and I don't tan much either. But I don't lie out under this sun. We do have swimming pools here, but they are kind of rustic. And I don't see many grandmothers swimming, which I wonder about... did they never learn how?

Further north, along the Caribbean coast, a city called Cartagena looks a lot like another city I lived in, St Augustine in Florida. I think this is because both cities were built by the same architect from Spain. But nearby this city (which does have air conditioning in the tall buildings) many people do live in huts which have roofs made of grass or 'thatch' and bamboo walls because they need to let all that moist and warm air move around and through their homes.

The place where I will be storing my belongings is made out of cement blocks, so it doesn't have the same kind of insulation as a rammed earth house, but my space will be on the second floor so I will get lots of ventilation when I am staying here.
This is not some kind of rare, Colombia chicken. But they
call it "azul pavo real" and 'pavo' means silly... hmmm?

I am very lucky to be moving my things to a place where there are a lot of chickens and they roam around and eat nearly all the bugs and then produce a lovely egg. Some of those birds get creative and make the eggshell green! The yolk inside is still yellow, but a much deeper yellow than the commercial eggs in the United States and I think they have more flavor as well.

This is also a country that grows a lot of coffee. I don't drink much of it because it is very strong and keeps me awake, but it is very flavorful and my favorite way to enjoy it is in ice cream in a cone. The coffee grows on bushes, or trees, that need to be in a little shade and the bean looks an awful lot like a cranberry when it is picked. The outer skin is peeled off and the bean inside is roasted after it is dried. Perhaps when you are bigger, E, you will want to try tasting it.
This is Rebecca, a tame yellow-naped
Amazon parrot that lives on the
property. How beautifully she fits in
with her surroundings....

Also, E, when you next go to Pike Place Market, look at all the flowers there. Many of those exotic flowers were grown in the Bogota area or in Ecuador. I have a neighbor who travels around to the flower growers and she buys and sells them for export to Seattle or Chicago or San Francisco or Boston.

One other thing Colombia is known for is the precious stone called an emerald (you can read more about them here and see one in the rough). Recently there was a landslide and the peasants recognized right away there was a vein in the rocks and there were a lot of good quality emeralds to be retrieved. It was too far away for me to go and see, but I guess not for some folks and the small village was jammed with people hoping to get a few pieces of this valuable stone. Since it was not a legal mine, I don't know on whose land it was discovered, but for some people this may have been a miraculous land-fall!



Knowing how much you love cats, this message would not be complete
without a picture of my Colombian kitties enjoying the rocking chair.
It is my dearest hope that you will come here someday, E, and perhaps I can show you this fascinating country myself. But for now, just know that I am sending you big hugs from the northern Andes mountains up to the Olympics and Cascades and if you are reading this on Wednesday, I will be there soon!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Taking recycling to high fashion

Last night, after a couple of days of participating in the project at a very minor level (offering up a hammer, an ice tray and a couple of whacks) I watched the presentation of the Aquileo Parra school's recycled fashion show.
I would have liked to have a closer look at some of these
creations; very creative work happening here!
This was my personal favorite of the show; those are bottle caps used in
the bodice and the old umbrella has been brought to life with snack liners.
Dress made from egg cartons, left, dress from used CDs in
the middle and the one on the right is a variety of materials.
Who would imagine that you can take the plastic sacks used for chips and snacks and make them into a dress? Have you even seen a dress created out of old plastic CDs? Or a vest made from bottle caps? The mission was to create something out of a thing that was already used... there was a dress made from unraveling the cardboard of toilet and paper towel rolls, and another out of old egg cartons, and I was amazed at what could be created from newspaper and magazines!

By the way, the hammering was because the bottle caps have to be flattened to be attached to the fabric or paper being used. You can see that result in the dress with the girl carrying the umbrella.

The vivienda of the casa where I am
now living was a participant with this
colorful creation.

The use of newspaper, snack bags, candy wrappers and other recycled bits
were colorfully attached for this evening dress!
Unfortunately my camera flash could not overcome the deep darkness of the venue, so these are not the best of shots. But I hope that world-wide this idea will catch on because the children are so creative, and it helps to raise awareness of how much waste we create. It was a high-energy evening, but they didn't use up much electricity for it.